Celebrated for its blissful beaches, blue lagoons and colourful reefs, the Maldives is top of the list when it comes to idyllic island escapes. Add to that a rich cultural history steeped in Islamic faith and national pride, and you’ve got a holiday destination with plenty of festivals, national holidays and traditional events to join in the fun!
As a completely Islamic country, the Maldives celebrates Ramadan every year in August or September. While locals fast during the day, the evenings are filled with feasts of delicious dishes only served during this time. Grab an exotic Ramadan juice (rose, apricot and kamardine), then watch the festivities begin with exciting cultural activities including live music, belly dancers and fire performers.
2. Party with a Purpose Festival
Taking place in April/May each year, this super-fun music festival is held by Kurumba Maldives to raise funds for local orphanages and educational projects. Bust a move on the beach to lively local music, watch as dancers perform the traditional Bodu Beru dance, and take part in a silent auction for some stunning local artwork and other prizes.
3. National Day
Falling sometime in February or March, National Day is a fiercely patriotic celebration with impressive military parades, rousing political speeches, plenty of flag waving citizens and dazzling fireworks.
4. Independence Day
Held on 26 July each year, Independence Day is a really big deal in the Maldives. It marks the day back in 1965 when the country gained its freedom from Britain. So expect dancing, singing and partying in the streets, colourful parades, and ecstatic Maldivians in the mood to celebrate. Be sure to check out Republican Square on Malé where the party really kicks off after sunset.
5. Whale Shark Festival
This annual festival held in August celebrates the island’s incredible marine life and the sacred relationship between locals and the ocean. Marine biologists, conservationists, artists, schools and local communities gather to tell traditional stories, share insights and create beautiful artisanal crafts.
6. Republic Day
A bit more low key than Independence Day, but definitely still worth checking out, is Republic Day. Held on 11 November, it celebrates the day the Maldives became a republic for the second time in 1968. The main event happens on Malé, where parades burst to life in the streets and parks. Now’s also a great time to try some special Republic Day dishes including “huni hakuru folhi” (coconut cake), “bodibaiy,” (a super-sweet rice snack), and “masroshi,” (fish-stuffed pancake).” Yum!
7. Prophet’s Birthday
This colourful carnival offers fascinating insights into the Islamic faith and religious fervour of the locals. It celebrates the birthday of the founder of the Islamic faith, Prophet Muhammad. Huge processions through the streets of Malé and decorated mosques set the scene. Scholars and poets recite famous sufi poems in honour of the Prophet. And food and money are donated to charity.
8. Eid Festival
This is one festival you don’t want to miss! Eid takes place in September and lasts for three exciting days with grand meals, traditional storytelling, local dances and plenty of other activities. Try to track down a performance of ‘Maali neshun’, a traditional dance featuring locals painted and dressed like ghosts to honour an ancient fishing legend of the island.
A note on drinking: Maldives is a dry country and alcohol is only allowed in resorts. So stick to tea, water and soft drinks when you’re out and about.
Celebrate with the locals in the beautiful Maldives! Book your holiday in the Maldives now!